I think a lot of sports fans in the country would agree that the 68 team tournament to decide who wins the college basketball national championship is the most exciting time of the year. No matter what your regular season record was, or how well you played in your own conference, this tournament will 100 percent weed out the pretenders from the contenders. Every single game is important, even No. 1 vs No. 16 teams can have games that come down to the very last second, which makes this tourney must-watch television.
The Cincinnati Bearcats are one of seven teams in the country to have made the tournament field seven times in a row, and hopefully the ‘Cats can make it out of the first couple of rounds this time around. After falling to SMU in the conference title game, UC has taken a lot of criticism even as a high seeded team. Hopefully, that chip on their shoulder makes this Bearcats team ready to prove the world wrong.
Get to Know the Opponent
The Kansas State Wildcats come from the highly competitive Big 12 conference where they finished with an 8-10 record and a 20-13 overall regular season record. Those numbers are not very impressive but we must remember that playing in a conference with Kansas, Baylor, West Virginia and Iowa State means wins will never come easy. KSU finished sixth in the conference but were still able to earn a bid as a play-in team. The Wildcats took on Wake Forest on Tuesday night and came out victorious, springing them into a matchup against the Bearcats on Friday night.
The Wildcats are a very balanced team, sort of like the Bearcats, as they have four players averaging double digit points per game. The man who has the ability to take over games for KSU is Wesley Iwundu. Iwundu dropped 24 points against Wake Forest on Tuesday and has averaged 12.9 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. Iwundu stands 6’7” and can handle the ball very well which can create a bunch of matchup problems for opposing teams.
The downfall for the Wildcats has been there bench scoring, which ranks 318th in the country. If the Bearcatscan force KSU’s starters to get in foul trouble, the Wildcats don’t have much help from the second stringers.
The Bearcats Road
The Bearcats have not made much of a splash in recent years during March Madness. Three of their last four trips to the tourney have ended in the first round and the last time the ‘Cats made a bit of a run, it ended with a loss to Ohio State in the Sweet 16 in 2012. The Bearcats are due for a run, and a couple of ESPN anchors are pulling for them as well. Joe Lunardi of ESPN is predicting the Bearcats beat Kansas State and go on to beat No. 3-seeded UCLA to lead to a matchup against the Kentucky Wildcats. This is just a prediction of course, but Lunardi is known for his expertise in March Madness so it is definitely worth talking about.
I expect a Bearcats win on Friday night against Kansas State. They are a deeper team with a bench that can put in a lot of valuable minutes to keep the guys fresh. UC needs to control the tempo and keep Iwundu from putting up big numbers, and it can do that, especially since this is a team ready to prove itself.